Norimoto’s rhubarb danish. “I tend to get anything that’s super seasonal,” said chocolatier Kate Shaffer. “(Baker Atsuko Fujimoto) really likes it when you can look at a pastry and see the season. ‘Oh this is seasonal. It has rhubarb right on it.’ ” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Any Mainer with eyes and a sweet tooth already knew that we were living in the golden age of bakeries in Portland. We didn’t need celebrity chef and cookbook author Amanda Freitag to tell us so.

“Well, it looks like Portland, Maine, might be vying for pastry capital of America,” Freitag told the industry crowd attending the James Beard Awards gala at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago on Monday, where both Zu Bakery and Atsuko Fujimoto of Norimoto took home James Beard Foundation Awards, for Outstanding Bakery and Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker, respectively. “OMG! This is HUGE!! HUGE!!” ConcernedMainer commented on the Press Herald story’s about the wins, summing up how many of the rest of us feel.

Beyond those two, a by-no-means comprehensive list of shockingly great local bakeries includes Standard Baking, Tandem, Belleville, Bread & Friends, Onggi Ferments and, slightly farther afield, Night Moves and Scratch in South Portland, Fika in Saco and Solo Pane Pasticceria in Bath. And we haven’t even touched on the terrific bagels here.

In a proud, preening, celebratory #PortlandMaineYesLifesGoodHere mood, we called an assortment of eaters, bakers and food industry folks to ask them to name a beloved treat, sweet or savory, bread or pastry from a local establishment. Our parameters for this assignment soon went the way of Prune Whip – they disappeared – as our sources named recipes from cookbooks, from bakeries outside of Portland, and from bakeries that no longer exist. Many weren’t able to restrict themselves to one item or bakery. Who could, given the plethora of possibilities? And we’ve got several repeats. Indulge us; this is a story about indulgences, after all. If this list of favorites is a little higgledy piggledy, it’s also undeniably delicious.

And please comment with your own favorite local breads and pastries.

Chocolate Croissants at Belleville. Photo courtesy of Belleville

Night Moves corn and rhubarb cake, Belleville croissants, Bread & Friends morning buns – Bowman Brown, chef and owner, Elda and formerly Jackrabbit


“The first thing that came to mind, and this might just be recent-cy bias, I really love the baking at Night Moves. The bread is great, but I just had this corn and rhubarb coffee cake. It’s made with whole grains and sourdough starter so it just has a depth of flavor you don’t usually think of with coffee cake. Runner-ups for me – I’m always totally blown away every time I eat either a plain croissant or a chocolate croissant at Belleville. They nail the texture. The lamination is great. It’s definitely a cut above. I love the morning bun at Bread & Friends. I think they have some whole grain in it. It tastes a little more wholesome, though it’s probably not healthy. There are so many other things. I could go on and on.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Elda is temporarily closed, while the restaurant moves from Biddeford to Portland. Jackrabbit, which was in Biddeford, has closed, though may be revived eventually in some form, Brown said.

Solo Pane Pasticceria almond croissant, Norimoto chocolate financier and rusks – Karen Watterson, freelance food writer, serious hobby baker

“What about Bath? Can I name one in Bath? (Baker Simone Laboa’s) almond croissant is the best. Oh my god! It’s got a lot of almonds. It’s very crisp on the outside, very tender on the inside and just the right amount of almond paste, not too gooey-sticky. I live part-time on the Midcoast, and I always try to stop at Solo on my way up. All of his stuff is really good. Everything he does is really authentic.

“I’ll tell you my favorite thing (at Norimoto). (Owner Atsuko Fujimoto’s) chocolate financier. The outside is just crisp enough and then the inside is ridiculously soft. It’s like the almond croissant; it’s got that double appealing texture. There’s one more thing at Norimoto. I believe this is how she does them: If there are any leftover croissants, she slices them very thin and brushes them with a sugar syrup, just lightly, and sprinkles them with either sesame or pumpkin seeds and bakes them, so they get really crisp. They’re almost like an elephant ear. They are soooo good with coffee. Oh my god. She sells them in little bags and calls them rusks.”

Night Moves Bird Bread. Photo by Kerry Hanney

Night Moves Bird Bread – Carl Deustch, owner/baker, Belleville


“My favorite right now would be the Bird Bread from Night Moves bakery, or really any bread from there, but I really love the Bird Bread. It’s like a seeded pan loaf. I love how dark they bake it, so it’s got that caramelized flavor, and I love the different kinds of seeds they put in the bread. It’s perfect for sandwich, loaves, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I usually try to make a trip out to Night Moves for bread for the family every week because we eat a lot of bread. It’s incredibly good bread. And I think it sells really well because it’s often sold out.”

Zu Bakery, named James Beard Foundation Outstanding Bakery 2024. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Zu Bakery scones, Tandem scones, Norimoto chocolate sake cake — Kerry Haney, owner/baker, Night Moves

“The first thing that comes to mine is a scone I had from Zu Bakery. It was just like the platonic ideal of a scone. It was perfectly constructed and baked. It was so light and flavorful, I couldn’t stop eating it until it was gone. It was completely plain. No, it might have had currants. And the scones from Tandem are also fantastic. (Baker Briana Holt) has the magic touch with those kinds of doughs. What else? So many things. The chocolate sake cake that Atsuko (Fujimoto of Norimoto) makes is insanely good.”

The Ugly Duckling in Portland’s West End. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Ugly Duckling canelé, Fika focaccia – Kate Hamm, owner/baker, Fish & Whistle, Biddeford, 2022 James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef

So many good things!! So for breakfast-y stuff. I love canelé. (Owner/baker Ilma Lopez) makes a really great canelé at Ugly Duckling. It’s just perfect. It’s classic, just that classic really nice rum flavor. The texture is perfect. Just the right amount of crispness on the outside and custardy on the inside, and that strong vanilla rum flavor. I live in Saco. I’ve been going to Fika here. Their focaccia is the most insane focaccia I’ve ever had. Everything (owner/baker Kristina Alving) makes is the best version of that I’ve ever had. It is so tall, and it’s light and feathery and it has this big open crumb, but it’s not too wet and it’s not spongy at all. And a perfect salty crust. They bake out of that little shack, and there will be like 30 different things every day.”

Atusuko Fujimoto’s pistachio-olive oil cake – Karl Schatz, photographer, co-author of seven food books, homesteader, co-founder of Community Plate


“There are two recipes from (baker) Atsuko (Fujimoto) in ‘The New Portland, Maine, Chef’s Table’ (which Schatz and his wife, Margaret Hathaway, produced) from when she was at Ten Ten Pie. One of them is a pistachio-olive oil cake. It’s this really delicious cake, but it’s gluten- and dairy-free. We’re delighted to have had her contribution to that cookbook and especially that recipe. It is one of those recipes that we find ourselves making a ton. Everyone likes it, and people who have dietary restrictions can eat it. You should definitely make it. It’s really good. The flip side of that is there are so many things she makes that I couldn’t possibly imagine people making at home. They are so amazing, but they are complicated and precise. (The pistachio-olive oil cake) was the perfect recipe for her to include in a recipe book like ours because it is so simple and straightforward, and it turns out perfectly every time. So here is something you can make yourself that has her genius behind it, but still go to the bakery for sure.”

Night Moves Baltic Rye Photo by Kerry Hanney

 Night Moves Baltic Rye – Andrew Ross, Portland Press Herald restaurant critic

“Gosh, if you’d asked me six months ago when Maples (Yarmouth, later New Gloucester) was still around, I’d have named that immediately. The scones and the English muffins were so good. Oh, and the cardamom buns at Jackrabbit (in Biddeford, also closed). OK, Night Moves – their sourdough is among the best in the country. The one that I really do like is the Baltic Rye, that really dark molasses-y rye. It’s especially good with things like cream cheese, smoked salmon and pickles, and I really like it smeared with mustard and with liverwurst, which is probably not to everyone’s taste, but it’s very Danish to have liver pate and dense dark bread, and it reminds me of the time I spent in Denmark.”

Standard Baking Co.’s Raspberry Galette. Courtesy of Standard Baking Co.

Bread & Friends Seeded Sourdough, Standard Baking Raspberry Galette — Mitchell Davis, international restaurant consultant, cookbook writer, frequent Maine visitor

“Favorite Bread: Seeded Sourdough from Bread & Friends. I love the flavor of the sourdough and the seeds, the chew of the crust, the texture of the crumb. The last time I bought one it stayed fresh enough to eat/toast for a week or more. Favorite Pastry: Raspberry Galette at Standard Baking Co. It’s perfectly buttery, almondy, and with slight tartness of the raspberries to cut though the richness of the dough. A perfect pastry.”

Bread & Friends Seeded Sourdough. Photo by James Adam Taylor

Bread & Friends Seeded Sourdough, anything seasonal from Norimoto — Kate Shaffer, owner/chocolatier, Ragged Coast Chocolates, Westbrook

“Right now, my favorite bread is coming from Bread & Friends. I think it’s their seeded sourdough. It’s a sandwich bread. It’s delicious. I love it so much. Bread & Friends is my bread go-to right now. I think they mill their grains in-house, and freshly milled grains make all the difference. Their doughs are so super hydrated, so they tend to last a long time. It also gives the breads the time and opportunity to build flavor.

“Norimoto would be my pastry pick. (Atsuko Fujimoto’s) menu is changing a lot any time. I tend to get anything that’s super seasonal. She really likes it when you can look at a pastry and see the season. ‘Oh, this is seasonal. It has rhubarb right on it.’ She is usually my first pick when I want to bring sweets to work, which is crazy because we have sweets all around. But I can’t not go there and pick up a box of pastries.”

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